Can you help me plan a three week honeymoon to Australia?
August 14, 2012 1:15 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me plan a three week honeymoon to Australia? Looking for general travel tips as well as recommendations for individual places to visit and stay. Thanks!

Hi gang, I hope you can help.

We're looking at heading over to Australia from the UK for the last 3 weeks in November.

I'd ideally like to plan a trip that finds a balance between travelling and seeing as much as possible but also finding a few days to properly relax and enjoy something romantic and 'honeymoony'.

We're currently planning to fly into Sydney, but could consider getting flights back from a different area if it made sense with our itinerary. I'm aware that flights aren't going to get any cheaper, so am looking at booking them asap.

This will probably be our only visit to Australia, so although we realise there's no way to see it all in 3 weeks, we want to cram as much in as possible.

We get on well in cities, but also enjoy the outdoors, particularly hiking, kayaking and cycling. Neither of us dive (or have time to learn beforehand), but I've heard good things about the snorkelling. We enjoy food, wine and are keen to see the obvious tourist attractions. We don't have strong desires to avoid the tourist trail, but are not frightened of going off the beaten track.

What cities, areas, places or activities would you recommend? Any must-see sights, or ways of experiencing them? A coffee shop to die for? I'm interested in it all!

In terms of budget, I've got around 150-200AUD per day to play with. I'd like to come in on the lower end of that, although I'd spend more for individual activities or excursions that are worth it. If this isn't realistic, then let me know! Whilst I'd like to spend at least 3/4 nights in accommodation of a more traditional honeymoon standard, we're quite happy to spend the rest of the trip in either private rooms in hostels, or B&Bs. Enjoying our time there is more important to us than staying somewhere amazing.

All advice welcome! Thanks.
posted by Simon_ to Travel & Transportation around Australia (21 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Stay here in the B&B or one of the cottages in a stunningly beautiful and romantic setting. Hike the crap out of some of the trails.

Those accommodations are a little expensive though; does your 150-200 AUD cover accommodations as well? Or just "stuff to do" for each day?
posted by olinerd at 1:57 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The drive from Melbourne to Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road is spectacular. Then you can stop at the if you like wine and food it's a great place to visit. Then through Adelaide which has lots of amazing little restaurants and is a pretty little city so you could stop there, but I'd recommend going on to Kangaroo Island which is amazing. KI has a lot of wildlife which is mostly very friendly, in the right seasons you can see whales off the coast, tour penguin and sea lion colonies and see Koalas and Kangaroos in the wild as well as seeing some amazing coastline.

If you have time too you can head up north about a days drive to the Flinders ranges, it has a really other worldly feel to it and I was told by my Yank husband feels and looks a lot like how he pictured the outback, it also has great hikes and a lot of history, rock art and fossils and the like to see if that's your sort of thing.

It's all a bit out the way, and the East coast guys think they have all the tourist attractions so I'm sure you'll get a lot of suggestions for over there, but if you do it at the end of your trip you can fly out of Adelaide to the UK with most of the major airlines no worries.
posted by wwax at 2:01 PM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

It's very expensive, and I've never stayed there, but Paperbark Camp in Jervis Bay is totally dreamy. I mention it in spite of its being outside your price range because since seeing the place, it has been permanently fused with the word "honeymoon" in my brain. I have been to the restaurant there. It's really beautiful and romantic.

The Great Ocean Road is an excellent trip, I'll second that one. Wineries are also a great idea--McClaren Vale is another good region near Adelaide, and the Hunter Valley near Sydney is also beautiful. (I think I maybe liked McClaren Vale better, though.) If you go to Adelaide, it is compulsory to watch the sun set at Glenelg.

Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef is a great thing. I don't dive and am not a very strong swimmer, but nonetheless had an amazing time snorkelling. There are a wide variety of day and longer trips out of Cairns; I've only been on one and have no idea which are best.

I think Sculpture By the Sea is on in Sydney in November. The Coogee to Bondi coastal walk in Sydney is filled with public art for a few weeks every year; it's a beautiful walk any time and should make your list of tourist musts regardless, but Scuplture By the Sea is an especially great time to do it. is a great source of good deals on accomodation.
posted by snorkmaiden at 2:31 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Agree that the budget sounds low to include accommodation. Australia is, geographically, not much smaller than the US, so if that is where you are from then that might give you an idea of how you will probably want to narrow down a region or 2, unless you want to spend a lot of time and money on flights. Check out the lonely planet home page for Australia to narrow your question down perhaps and then come back to get details like good accom and cafes? Also- theage (a Melbourne newspaper) has a great app- about $6 aud that will locate the best restaurants and cafes (there's a cheap eats version too) around you and by ranking. I believe the Sydney morning herald does one too- both through iTunes.
posted by jojobobo at 2:33 PM on August 14, 2012

And (I cam't resist) as a melbourian I would skip Melbourne and Sydney and go to the 'red centre'- Uluru, Kata Juta in the Northern Territory, the Kimberleys (WA), kangeroo island (SA) and Cable Beach (WA). Think very drastic scenery and indigenous culture and beaches. And then a couple of days in Bondi (NSW) to relax and enjoy civilization. However, being quite remote and disparate destinations I think they'd probably be out of your price range in that time.
posted by jojobobo at 2:41 PM on August 14, 2012

Kata Tjuta. Very resistant spell check.
posted by jojobobo at 2:42 PM on August 14, 2012

Just a little west of the blue mountains in NSW, mentioned above, is the town of Parkes, home of the Parkes Radio Observatory, a large radio telescope which received the TV signals of the first walk on the Moon in July 1969.

This event was the subject of a comedic movie called "The Dish" which you should probably see after you return to the US.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:54 PM on August 14, 2012

Fly UK to Kuala Lumpur the KL to the Gold Coast (South East Qld). Stay few nights around the Gold Coast and hinterland. Many things to do and see. The drive south to Byron Bay (only an hour) and hang around there for a few days. Drive south for a few hours and stay around Nambucca Heads for a night. Then drive a few more hours south and hit Sydney. Stay there for a week or so, include the Blue Mountains.

With a week left, plan a driving tour around the coast of South East NSW and into Victoria. Stay in Melbourne for a day or two. Continue driving around the coast to Adelaide via the Great Ocean Road. Fly Adelaide to Gold Coast. Fly home.

Forget anything in north Qld as the stingers are out in the water at that time of year (unless you are on an island which doesn't fit your budget).

For accommodation check out: for hotels & for B&Bs and other accommodation for places to stay in Sydney & Melbourne.
posted by Kerasia at 3:19 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ooh, I meant to say that Jervis Bay is also a good place for hiking, kayaking, and swimming.

Even when the stingers are out, you can still snorkel around Cairns; you'll just have to wear a weird suit. Don't let that deter you if this is your only Australia visit ever, because the Reef is beautiful. (I did it in January--maybe there's something different about November that I don't know about? Anyway, don't rule it out before looking into that.)
posted by snorkmaiden at 3:31 PM on August 14, 2012

We get on well in cities

Me too. But the best time I had in Australia wasn't when I was in Melbourne or Sydney for ~1.5 weeks; it was the 1.5 days in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. So my recommendation is to visit the cities, but then get outside the cities somewhat quickly.
posted by kiltedtaco at 3:37 PM on August 14, 2012

I reckon the heat in Queensland will kill you in November, even though I think it's one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Not to mention not being able to swim in the ocean. Maybe come to the Gold Coast - you can still swim, and pop up to Mt Tambourine. $100 a day gives you reasonable hotel accommodation (my expectations aren't high). I use Wotif mostly and you can get really great deals if you book late in the day.

Melbourne and Great Ocean Road are a must do.
posted by b33j at 4:28 PM on August 14, 2012

It's chillier than the rest of Australia, and your budget might not have room for it, but staying in Cradle Mountain, Tasmania, was absolutely wonderful. We flew to Launceston and stayed for three days (I think it was at this place). It's very different from the rest of Australia and absolutely worth seeing.
posted by third word on a random page at 4:37 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Blue Mountains/Katoomba. It's a beautiful area and easy to get to from Sydney (take the train from Sydney is a good option). I agree with the comments about not spending too long in cities although the city/suburban beaches of Sydney are an amazing thing to experience for the first time and at a great time of year; similarly walks around the edge of Sydney harbour can be found in trees/bush and provide beautiful views. All of that stuff can be done by bus/train/ferry if you're looking to trim costs.

Queensland in November - depends how you like your heat but it's pretty warm and significantly warmer in Cairns/Townsville than in Brisbane/Gold Coast area. The problems with swimming in the ocean in summer applies only north of gladstone which still leaves you with the whole of South East Queensland ... which is a lot.

FWIW my personal view of the reef thing is that you can spend your time/money better in other ways but appreciate this is somewhat personal (I had the most amazing time using only fins and a mask diving from a boat in less then 5m of water off the Whitsunday Islands - albeit in winter)
posted by southof40 at 5:33 PM on August 14, 2012

I rember walking on the beach in Cairns with a moon out low over the ocean as one of the most gorgeous and romantic nights ever. And snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef was one of the most wonderful days.
Highly recommended.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:04 PM on August 14, 2012

Australia has a pretty extensive railway system and rail travel is a great way to see lots of the countryside. Overnight train travel also provides you with transportation and accomodation at the same time.
Here's a link to the RailAustralia site.
The Great Ocean Road is indeed gorgeous and just a little ways north from Warnambool (the western end of the road) is the Grampians National Park which has many good hiking trails.
If you spend any time in Sydney, be sure to take the ferry to Manly for a day.
Melbourne has again just been named the most liveable city in the world.
posted by islander at 6:23 PM on August 14, 2012

We had 3 weeks in Australia and spent the last part of the last week in Tasmania. It was amazing! We took the overnight ferry from Melbourne and landed the next morning in Derry. We particularly enjoyed the Tasmanian Devil Park and the ruins of the penal colonies. The night ghost tour at one was easily one of the scariest things I've ever been on. It was conducted by lantern light.

We also really enjoyed Sydney and would have liked to have had more time there.
posted by Leezie at 7:24 PM on August 14, 2012

We get on well in cities, but also enjoy the outdoors, particularly hiking, kayaking and cycling. Neither of us dive (or have time to learn beforehand), but I've heard good things about the snorkelling. We enjoy food, wine and are keen to see the obvious tourist attractions. We don't have strong desires to avoid the tourist trail, but are not frightened of going off the beaten track.

For 3 weeks, I'd suggest stick to the East coast, Meaning Sydney (NSW) and Melbourne (Victoria) (for the Cities) and from those two cities you have potential travel options out to the Blue Mountains, Great Ocean Road and / or Country Victoria. You probably want to spend around 4 days in each Melb and Sydney city. There is also potential for you to fly to Tasmania from Melbourne (Cradle Mountain or Bay of Fires is superb for hiking and has some very beautiful Lodges and camping options including self-guided hiking trips). Also, you could fly to Cairns (Far North Queensland) from either sydney or Melbourne for Tropical Rainforest adventures (Snorkelling etc). Keep in mind that it will be Warm in November and you should make the most of visiting the beautiful beaches. Melbourne is not really a beach city but if you hire a car and drive to the Great Ocean Road (2-3 hours from Melb city) you can camp or motel near Lorne which has a superb beach and also excellent walking tracks into the hinterland of the Otways National Park. Definitely recommend all camping spots between Lorne and Wye river, especially Cumberland River Camping Spot, its very beautiful.

If you travel to Country Victoria, be sure to stop off at Daylesford or Hepburn Springs overnight and visit the Mineral Springs, there are excellent walking tracks around Lake Daylesford and its very picturesque. The Mineral Springs is pretty romantic and dinner at the Lakehouse is a great experience for regional produce and well awarded country wine list, the Lakehouse is one of the only regional "country" restaurants with 2 hats (Australian hats different to michelen star). I recommend the pepper springs mineral springs retreat pass or the salus day spa at the Lakehouse for bathing. There is plenty of cheap accommodation and villas on and for Daylesford/Hepburn Springs if you want to book in advance.

Also definitely recommend a trip to Cairns (fly in to Cairns but travel to Port douglas) for a unique Australian tropical experience. You can do day trip snorkelling on the reef and the weather will be really nice around then. Alternatively you could skip Queensland altogether and fly from Sydney to Ballina then drive to Byron Bay - Byron Bay is a sub-tropical beach in NSW and is incredibly popular, unqieu Australian experience as well, very chilled out and possibly less touristy than Port douglas. Both would be amazing.

On a side note, you can travel to Alice Springs (centre) or to Darwin and visit some amazing National Park Waterfalls and Lagoons from Darwin for swimming, you have to check though where you can swim and what time of year around Darwin, see here. OR you can fly to Perth (West coast or WA) and take a 30min boat ride to Rottnest Island for a day trip OR drive down to Margaret River and South Coast of WA for a few days which is one of the best wine & beach regions in Australia (the other great wine region is just outside Adelaide but for the love of god don't go to Adelaide for anything else). If you DO go to WA, be very careful about swimming in any beach and make sure you are well-educated about the shark attacks. Darwin and WA are all awesome experiences and very different to what you'll get from the East Coast, but the flights will be substantially more than just sticking to East coast (being Victoria, NSW and Queensland).

If you want further details on restaurants and bars in and around Melbourne and Sydney feel free to ask.
posted by Under the Sea at 8:05 PM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

When you are in Sydney, catch the train to katoomba and then there is about a 2 mile walk to see the three sisters.

Also agree that a ferry ride to manly from circular quay is a great thing to do - then it is a short stroll to a sandy beach.

I also agree that the great ocean road is a terrific thing to do. I would recommend taking a week to 10 days to do it though. Start at Melbourne and ultimately end up at Adelaide.

You will see an amazing variety of terrain/ vegetation/ wildlife if you do the great ocean road then continue onto mount gambier and the blue lake, then the coonawarra region ( road trip with wine tasting yay!), divert to Nelson and travel along the cooyong ( the bird life should be amazing) cross at murray bridge, dip down to glenelg ( and see kangaroo island if you have more than 10 days and funds permit) then up to Adelaide. You could do it in less time - but then you wouldn't be able to stop and do stuff.

Also agreeing about Uluru. It is very iconic.
posted by insomniax at 8:20 PM on August 14, 2012

Great Ocean Road and Grampians are worth doing.

Uluru was interesting, but I'm not too keen to recommend it, because it's a pretty costly out of the way thing to do. It wasn't worth the ~$1000 or so it cost me to do (after flight, tour, accommodation, etc.)

I heard the Whitsundays were amazing. I loved Byron Bay.

I walked from Coogee Beach to Bondi, and it was quite nice (and free - although you may want to stop at one of the beaches along the way for a meal).

I regret not going to Tasmania.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:05 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Everyone has great ideas...

Blue Mountains, Ocean Road, the Coogee to Bondi walk in Sydney, Daylesford, Sydney ferries. These are all great!

I reckon adding Tasmania to your trip would be a smart choice, especially since you've said hiking and rafting are on your list. I've never been, but rafting the Franklin River and hiking Cradle Mountain are very much on my list. Do them.

Most your costs will likely come from travelling between destinations, so perhaps go for places that are going to give you the most bang for your buck without having to fly/catch trains etc. I know that going to Tassie will blow that out a little, but if you balance that out by doing Sydney-based stuff (Bluies, Sydney Harbour locations like Circular Quay, Manly, Taronga Zoo, etc... perhaps kayaking on the Harbour itself?), you might have more in the kitty for travel to and from Tassie.

Congrats btw!
posted by chronic sublime at 4:32 AM on August 15, 2012

I like snorkelling at Clovelly in Sydney. Very sheltered and sometimes you see a groper! It's between Coogee and Bondi, or you can just catch a bus there. Avoid going to the Sculpture by the Sea on a weekend. The crowds for free stuff in Sydney on nice days are terrible. Oh, and anything popular that can be booked, will be booked out, so if you want to see a play or something, book early. For the honeymooning part, the blue mountains would be good. You can get on a train at the airport and be there in a few hours. If you want more Sydney specific stuff, MeMail me and I'll send you a list.

We did a fabulous couple of days riding around the vineyards of Rutherglen (we borrowed them from the tourism centre I think). It's not too far from the train between Sydney and Melbourne, and I would recommend it as an option for combining wine with cycling with seeing something outside the cities with train travel. Not the best wine region in the Australia, but not bad, particularly if you like strong reds. We've been meaning to plan something similar in the Hunter Valley, but haven't managed to yet (the internet is not as helpful as it could be, but it looks possible). Melbourne's meant to be good for cycling. I've never tried it, but the inner city councils have been building bike lanes all over the place, and there is a bike share (though you need a helmet, so it's not really a sensible setup).

Good coffee will not be hard to find. Anywhere busy cafe in a city will serve a good cuppa. (There is some strange nomenclature though. Apologies that the link is aimed at Americans, couldn't find a British one) Country is a bit more hit and miss, but the tea will always be good, so if in doubt go with that. Wine is pretty consistently good if you pay more than about $15. $20 to be safe. Ask the guy at the bottlo.... or do what I do and pick based on the label. For food, the best cheap food is generally Asian, particularly Thai or Vietnamese, preferably full of people squished around small cheap tables, with another bunch of people standing around the door for their takeaway. And brunch is almost a religion in most cities. (Except Perth for some reason, but you really don't have time to go there.) Pub Grub can be good, though the UK seemed to do it better. Eatability can help with decision making, just check the dates of the reviews, as things can change fast. Keep an eye out for microbreweries if you like beer, as they are generally worth trying.

You would have to pay me to go any further north than Sydney in November, as the monsoon is starting then. It can spike hot in the more southern areas (record for Melbourne in November is over 40C), but at least it won't be humid. Tassie's nice, though I haven't been far out of Hobart. They like to hike, cycle and wear polar fleece there. If you go to Tassie, take sunscreen. The ozone hole is noticeable there. Actually, just make sure you wear sunscreen everywhere. And a hat. Even in November me and my Northern European skin stay out of the sun between about 10 and 4.

For booking internal flights, compare on webjet, then buy them on the airline website (web jet charges a fee). I would fly into one place and out of another if you can do so for not much more. Worth the saving of time and stress, though Tassie -> London will probably require a change in Melbourne or Sydney anyway.
posted by kjs4 at 7:02 AM on August 15, 2012

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